Free As I'll Ever Be
I stepped into the Bawdy Barmaid. Keeping my head ducked as I stomped off my boots. Still, I’d have sworn I felt his eyes immediately swing to me.
After a time, the sensation eased, and I went to a bench in the back. Knowing my furs made me seem like a short, stalky man. I’d often been mistaken as such by highwaymen who’d left me alone.
A fair disguise.
One look at the barmaid and I was appalled. She was a gorgeous blonde creature, nearly spilling from her dress.
Looking very much like the small witch that had brought me the parchment.
The one that’d hugged me while they burned me.
She’d sat with me apologizing and petting my hair.
A small kindness for what they’d put me through.
My whole body sighed as I dared look across the tavern at Vandiel. Relief flowed through me at the sight of his familiar face.
He was watching the whole tavern with slight alarm on his face.
But he was watching the pretty barmaid serving me with the most intensity.
He wants her. I watched him, desperately wondering if he was man or monster.
There’s no way to tell.
But his face was growing increasingly intense on her as she asked me what I wanted to eat. His brow furrowing and slight anger altering his face.
I was tilted just sideways enough to peer at him beyond her, as I answered her questions mechanically.
Then I saw him rise and begin to head for her.
It’s her. Vandiel had felt her walk in the moment she entered. Though he hadn’t yet spotted her despite scanning the room.
He closed his eyes and concentrated on the direction of her energy. I feel you little mate.
When he opened his eyes, his gaze was drawn to the corner booth.
But a barmaid was blocking his view of the individual sitting on the bench sipping from a tankard.
It looked like a man.
Not my woman.
Still, that didn’t change the fact that he could feel it through every inch of his body. It’s her.
He could feel the pull of her light yanking at every fiber of his being.
But that damn barmaid won’t move!
How long does she intend to stand there blocking my view?
When he could take it no longer, Vandiel rose. Determined to head over there and yank the barmaid out of his way.
So, I can look on that being sitting alone there.
And despite that he’d fought the urge to see her, talk to her, for months. Despite that he’d fled her to keep from harming her, he could no more resist her pull now then he could stop breathing.
I need her.
Vandiel reached the barmaid and caught her elbow. Pulling her aside.
“Excuse me.” He gave her a dismissive glance. His gaze landing on the creature sitting at the bench ordering bird leg with such ferocity that the barmaid backed up.
“It is you!” He charged. Catching my hat and yanking it off my head to send a flood of brown hair pouring over my shoulders and down my back.
“You’ve just exposed me to the whole tavern!” I objected.
“I don’t give two bloody shits. Get off that bench.”
“Get off it?” I blinked at him.
He’s kicking me out of the tavern?
So, he can victimize these women? I won’t let him.
“You aren’t letting me do a damn thing.” His gaze narrowed on me.
Reading my thoughts, like always.
“Except letting me take you up those damn stairs, throw you onto a bed and ravish every piece of you.” There was such deep hunger on his face I knew he couldn’t be denied.
“Have you been itching for a woman?” I accused as I stood up to face him.
“One.” He lifted a finger between us. “One woman.”
“And you’re right here.” He eyed me from head to toe as though he could see me bare despite all my layers of furs.
“Completely possible.” He argued. Eyes widening in challenge. Hazel eyes burning to gold again.
Like the ones I once knew.
“Why should I?” I tossed my hair like a defiant mare. My eyes glittering in anger. Remembering the pain of his leaving. “’Twas you that left me.”
“To protect you!” He snarled. Leaning forward to nearly brush his nose against mine. “A fact which you’re well aware. I left you everything you needed.”
How to hunt. And the tools to do so.
Yes, he had.
“But that wasn’t what I wanted.” I said acidly.
“I gave you what you needed not what you wanted.”
“Perhaps I should give you what you need not what you want now.” I countered. Implying I’d not lie with him despite all his commanding airs.
I was well-aware that the tavern had silenced to listen to our bickering.
Even the barmaid stood slack jawed. Surprised that the man who’d been so quiet the last hour was now ready to shout down these rafters demanding I spread my legs for him.
“Don’t you dare.” He hissed dangerously.
“And if I do?”
“Remember,” His gaze seared into me. “’twas you that came hunting your big dangerous animal. Now you’ve cornered him, there’s no turning back. You didn’t leave well enough alone. Now you pay the consequences.”
A consequence I dearly wanted to pay. I could already picture his body, hear him panting as he drove into me. Filling me like I hadn’t felt since he’d gone. Soothing that ache that had burned for him for these many months.
He leaned back and his head lifted slightly, and I knew that monster or not, he’d sensed my thoughts yet again. And knew I’d not deny him. The hint of triumph danced in those gold eyes.
He knew I’d give into him but there was one thing I needed to know first. “Have you hungered for me these last few months like I starved for you?”
“I’ve been ravening, Sweet Zyra…” He said in a low voice. Lowering his head and staring at me in a predatory way that indicated he’d not be letting me out of his sight again.
Stirring everything low in my belly and dampening me for him.
“Then take me upstairs and sate your appetite, Vandiel.”
“Done.” He caught my hand and started dragging me up those stairs.
But more than anything, I’d found what I needed to know.
Saying his whole name had done nothing. He didn’t even notice.
He’s a human man desiring a woman. His woman…
With a hunger that was, as he’d said, ‘ravening’…
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